Pundit Wire

Author Archives: Hal Gordon

Liberty, Equality and Barbarity

Bastille Day July 14 is Bastille Day, the day on which the people of France celebrate the storming of the Bastille and the revolution that gave the world “liberty, equality and fraternity.”  That, at least, is the version we get in the history books.  But the French Revolution was a good deal more complex than that.  And so I am going to devote today’s post to an episode from the Revolution that most history books either gloss over or omit altogether.  It’s something called the War of the Vendée.

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The Magic Formula

Sorcerer Houston’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society is staging six performances of the Sorcerer at the Cullen Theatre between July 18-20 and July 25-27.

The Sorcerer is not as well known as H.M.S. Pinafore, the Pirates of Penzance, or the other operettas that followed. But without it, we might not have had its successors. Because it was with the Sorcerer that Gilbert and Sullivan hit on the magic formula that would plant their distinctive brand of musical comedy firmly in public favor, in their own time and to the present day.

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The Love Affair That Sent the World to War

franzsophie2 The assassinations of Franz Joseph and Sophie set in motion the terrible machinery of great power alliances that had been building for years. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia mobilized to defend the Serbs, which brought a declaration of war from Austria-Hungary’s ally, Germany. France and Britain, which were allied with Russia, were quickly drawn into the conflict. War engulfed Europe.

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A Woman Against World War I

BvSuttner This summer marks the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. As we remember the jingoism, militarism, intrigue and paranoia that combined to produce one of history’s bloodiest debacles, we might spare a thought for the gallant and forgotten band of pacifists who offered Europe one last chance to pull back from the brink.

In particular, we might rescue from undeserved obscurity the Baroness Bertha von Suttner, whom the writer Stefan Zweig called the “majestic and grandiose Cassandra of our time.”

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Not Just a Pretty Face

prettyface Last week I was in New York to attend the founding meeting of the Professional Speechwriters Association. While there, I managed to take in a play at Manhattan’s Irish Repertory Theatre. Sea Marks: An Irish Love Story, tells of two middle-aged people: Colm, a fisherman who has lived all his life on a small rocky isle on the west of Ireland, and Timothea, a Liverpool divorcee who works in publishing.

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Bowdlerizing is Back

the merchant of venice Ever hear of Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825)? He was an English physician and philanthropist who once published The Family Shakespeare, an expurgated edition of the Bard’s works edited by his sister, Henrietta Maria Bowdler. The Bowdlers’ object was to produce an edition of Shakespeare that could be read “without incurring the danger of falling unawares among words and expressions which are of such a nature as to raise a blush on the cheek of modesty.” Thus, Lady Macbeth’s cry of “Out, damned spot!” was refined to “Out, crimson spot!” and “God!” as an exclamation was replaced by “Heavens!”

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In Search of Scotland

SearchScotland On September 18, the people of Scotland will have the chance to vote on whether or not they want to remain part of the 307-year-old United Kingdom, or whether they want to reclaim their ancient status as a sovereign nation.

Anyone curious as to how the Scots could have held on to their sense of nationhood for more than three centuries in tandem with England could do worse than consult In Search of Scotland, by H.V. Morton.

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Gods, Gold and Greed

Houston-Grand-Opera-Das-Rheingold-April-2014-Photographer-Lynn-Lane_122152 In the year 1848, the continent of Europe was convulsed by revolution. In France, King Louis Philippe was driven from his throne and a republic proclaimed. Northern Italy and Hungary revolted against the overlordship of the reactionary Habsburgs. In Frankfurt, Germany’s first freely-elected assembly was convened to seek the unification of the German states by democratic means. In London, Marx and Engels published the first edition of the Communist Manifesto.

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